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Tech mistrust faces its biggest challenge yet in the Senate

Tech mistrust faces its biggest challenge yet in the Senate

After six months of slow progress, the Senate is closer to setting new tech antitrust rules — and the industry is fighting harder than ever to bring it down.

Sponsored by a bipartisan group including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO) was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January and is ready for a Full Senate vote in the coming weeks. But the bill is facing intense backlash from tech industry groups and is becoming a major test of the political power of tech companies in Congress.

In a joint press conference on Wednesday, the bill's sponsors emphasized bipartisan support for the bill among senators. "At its core, it's about reducing costs for consumers and helping a competitive business," Sen. Klobuchar told reporters. "And despite all the money being spent against us, we have momentum because the bill is competitive and that's common sense."

In the same event, Sen. Grassley emphasized the importance of quick action. "Big tech companies want to protect the status quo, which allows them to expand their influence over our decisions," the senator said. "If we want action, we need a Senate vote and we need a Senate vote soon."

However, it is not yet clear when the voting will take place. Bringing the bill to the floor would take the action of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who expects to schedule the vote for "early summer" — but with gun control legislation for the most part of the Senate, the accuracy of the vote. The date is still uncertain.

In a statement after the press conference, industry group Net Choice framed public pressure as a sign of the bill's poor prospects on the floor. "Frankly, if Sen. Klobuchar had the momentum behind the S2992 as she claims she does, she wouldn't need to host a press conference about it," said NetChoice general counsel Carl Szabo. Told. , "She would have already made it out of the Senate."

If enacted, AICO would ban major platforms from recommending their services over competitors, as well as provide new funding for antitrust regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Critics say the new rules would result in drastic changes to Amazon Prime or Google Search, with Klobuchar's office denying the claim.

Klobuchar told The Verge in January, "We're just trying to enforce some rules of the road so they can't give their products a preference over others," or copy other companies' data and use that for their own benefit. use it. ,

Several groups have come out in support of AICO this week, including Consumer Reports and the Center for American Progress. On Thursday, Politico reported growing divisions within the American Bar Association, which last month sent a letter opposing the bill. According to the report, a faction within the ABA is pushing back in favor of the bill, arguing that ABA leadership favors large tech companies.

As pressure mounts, tech leaders have refrained from commenting directly on the bill, but there have been signs of intense lobbying behind the scenes. Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared in Congress on Thursday, although the purpose of his visit was not disclosed. Publicly, Cook has only commented on the pending digital privacy law, asking Congress to pass the new protections "as soon as possible" in a public letter.

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